With thanks to Gena Karpf
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, art is ‘the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects’. Thus art is, at its most basic, the beauty of human creation. Yet all too often, we think of art simply in terms of painting, sculpture or, if we are broad minded, music, dance, drama and film. We little think of the artists behind some of the food we enjoy but how often have we looked at a cake, a biscuit, or even a meal served in a restaurant and thought ‘that’s too beautiful to eat’. Ephemeral though food may be, there one minute and being digested the next, is this not art, created by a true artist?
Gena Karpf, the founder of SWEETNESS The Patisserie is indeed an artist. Her food is beautiful, both in appearance and taste, true works of transitory art. Her creations reflect her love of food and all things sweet but also her background, growing up as part of a ‘foodie family’ in Nebraska.
We often hear of artists manifesting their artistic skills at an early age and Gena is no exception. She created her first cake when she was just four years old and was an accomplished baker by her teens. She honed her art in the Loire River Valley, France where she attended a short course at Ecole des Trois Pont and further refined her talents at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney where she graduated with a Diplome de Patisserie (Hons). In 2005 she decided to share her creative flair with lucky Sydney-siders, opening SWEETNESS The Patisserie in Epping (NSW). For Gena, food is more than simply sustenance, it is “our friend, our lover, our companion” and just like any artist, her artworks are created with love and “each bite captures the beauty you see and holds a promise of bliss”.
I met Gena not long after SWEETNESS opened, at one of the many ‘Produce Markets’ SWEETNESS is involved with. I love Produce Markets, where artisan producers sell their products directly to the public and I have met and befriended many artists at these markets, but none like Gena. Most of the artisan producers are artists in their own way. From the meat producers to the vegetable growers, they elevate produce to a level which you rarely see in your everyday stores.
Gena’s produce though is not only a joy to eat, it is a joy to behold, true works of art which compel you to pause and admire their beauty before closing your eyes in bliss as they melt on your tongue. My first introduction to Gena’s works of art were her extraordinary ‘SWEET Mallows’. You’ve had marshmallows, those little pillows of sickly sweet, artificial tasting and often luridly pink or yellow confectionary. Gena’s SWEET Mallows however elevate the marshmallow to an artform. Soft and yielding, as all good marshmallows should be, these pillows of confection do away with the lurid colouring and the artificial flavouring. With their beautiful pastel colours, an aroma which speaks of real fruits and spices, and a texture which is soft and luscious, I have even known them to convert haters of the marshmallow to admirers of Gena’s artistry.
Gena’s materials are not those of the usual artist. Her canvas is made of sugar and flour, and her paints are colours and flavours. Just as artists in more conventional forms, Gena works with colour, texture, shape, form, but her products are not just beautiful on the surface. Their beauty is transmuted into textures we can feel in a very intimate way on our tongues, aromas which thrill our senses and flavours which tickle our tastebuds. Her artistry may be enjoyed for just a moment, but it is enjoyed in a way no painting or sculpture can hope to match. Art is food for the soul, but the artworks created at SWEETNESS The Patisserie feed not just the soul, but the senses, and the body itself!
Of course, marshmallows are only part of the artistic repertoire of SWEETNESS The Patisserie. SWEETNESS has blossomed under Gena’s watchful eye, moving from strength to strength and each new treat she produces is a new work of art to be admired, appreciated and enjoyed.
If you would like to learn more about SWEETNESS The Patisserie, visit their website at https://www.sweetness.com.au/